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Weber Charcoal Grill Question

CindyJ Jul 21, 2010 06:46 AM

After 20+ years using gas grills, I'm about to transition back to charcoal. I've heard people sing the praises of the Big Green Egg, but that's too pricey an investment for me as a charcoal "newbie." I'm considering the Weber One-Touch Gold 26.75" because my son just bought a 22.5" Performer and told me he thinks I'd find that cooking surface too small. So here's my question: When using a grill as large as 26.75", if I'm only cooking for two, do I need to fill it with loads of charcoal, or is it just as efficient to build a smaller fire with fewer chunks?

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    Shaw Oliver RE: CindyJ Jul 21, 2010 07:50 AM

    Interesting question. I'd be surprised if you think the 22.5 is too small for 2 people. What kinds of things are you going to be cooking?

    As far as the charcoal, I think you will need to put a bit more into the 26 compared to the 22.5, but not lots. When cooking with charcoal, most of the time you mound the coals on one half of the grill and use the other side as a "roasting" side or a safe area where you can quickly pull items away from the direct fire where it might be cooking too fast (burning). No matter the size of the grill (within reason - we're not talking about the Weber Ranch Kettle) this type of cooking will not require more or less charcoal for the most part.

    With that said, why not buy the 22.5 and use the extra bit of cash to buy this: http://www.cast-iron-grate.com/ I guarantee it will make your son jealous. :-)

    I have a 22.5 myself and cook for 2 people unless we have folks over for dinner for instance. I have a cast iron grate but it's simply a Lodge grill topper, not the big thing I linked to above.

    One more thing. Seek out some quality lump charcoal. It is a great investment and while people claim it is more expensive than briquettes they are right, but hardwood lump is also reusable. Shut down the dampers and the fire goes out. You can reuse the un burned chucnks in your next fire. You can't do that with briquettes and re use them. I compare a bag of lump charcoal to a propane tank. Both cost about the same and both last about the same amount of time, but I don't hear people complaining that their propane is "too expensive." It goes without saying that you need to buy a charcoal chimney no matter what kind of charcoal you ultimately decide on. If you use lighter fluid you might as well stand in your front yard, wave a flag with "Dumbass" written on it, and tell people to throw eggs at your face. Ha! ;-)

    14 Replies
    1. re: Shaw Oliver
      CindyJ RE: Shaw Oliver Jul 21, 2010 08:22 AM

      Most of the time I'll only be cooking for two, but there are plenty of times when there will be more. I think one of the reasons my son made that observation is because my present gas grill has an additional "half-shelf" that's raised that I use for grilling veggies or toasting burger buns while the rest of the food cooks on the regular grill surface.

      There really is a significant cost difference between the 22.5" (~$149) and the 26.75" (~$299). I'm going to have an up-close look at both of them today. The larger one has a few features that the smaller one doesn't. The larger one has a lid holder (that's really important to me), a thermometer (less important), and, I believe, a larger ash receptacle. Is that all worth paying twice the price? I don't really know. The larger one also comes with side baskets for setting up an indirect heat zone; I'm not sure if the smaller one does too.

      I LOVE the idea of the cast iron grate. and that's something I'd definitely consider if I go with the 22.5". I'm already in your camp with regard to lump hardwood; in fact, experimenting with various hardwoods is one of the reasons I want to switch away from gas. The cost of the propane never really phased me because we've had a direct hookup to a larger propane tank. But not being "tethered" to that tank will be another advantage because I'll have more options regarding where to keep the grill.

      Can you please say a little more about reusing the unburned hardwood chunks? How, exactly, do you do that?

      1. re: CindyJ
        Joe Blowe RE: CindyJ Jul 21, 2010 09:15 AM

         
        >>Can you please say a little more about reusing the unburned _hardwood chunks_? How, exactly, do you do that?<<

        Reusing hardwood *lump charcoal* chunks is done just as it sounds: After you're done grilling on Friday, for example, you shut the vents on the Weber and the fire extinguishes. You are then left with charcoal chunks (or briquettes) that did not completely burn.

        When you're firing up the grill on Sunday, you take these "charcoal leftovers" and put them in your handy-dandy chimney (http://bit.ly/dbfzE1 ), top the chimney up with more lump charcoal as needed, and fire it up!

        Also, you might be able to find a restaurant supply store in your area that sells bigger size bags of lump charcoal. I'm able to buy 20 lb. bags of Royal Oak lump for ~$8/bag (http://bit.ly/avcuQC ), which is actually cheaper than the equivalent amount Kingsford Competition briquettes. The lump may not last quite as long as briquettes, but it's close enough, and I don't have to worry about all of the by-products in briquettes.

        1. re: Joe Blowe
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          Shaw Oliver RE: Joe Blowe Jul 21, 2010 09:47 AM

          Exactly. The dampers effectively close off the oxygen supply and the fire goes out. I usually fill about 1/2 to 2/3 of my charcoal chimney with leftover charcoal and then top it off with some new stuff.

          1. re: Joe Blowe
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            sparkareno RE: Joe Blowe Jul 22, 2010 04:04 PM

            FWIW, I reuse briquets all the time. i try to spread the briquets around a little if I can, sometimes squirt a little water on them if it is still super hot, close all vents and voila--charcoal for next time. So it's not just the hardwood that you can do this with. Also, I love my lid holder---a lot. I don't know why you'd need the side baskets--you can just do piles for indirect heat.

        2. re: Shaw Oliver
          CindyJ RE: Shaw Oliver Aug 7, 2010 01:35 PM

          I am now officially the owner of the Weber Performer and I'm going to buy the cast iron grate. I do have a question about cleaning it, though. Can it be cleaned with a typical grill brush, or will the brush remove the seasoning, leaving the grate to rust? What's the best way to care for this grate?

          1. re: CindyJ
            ScubaSteve RE: CindyJ Aug 13, 2010 10:19 AM

            as a lump charcoal, high heat kinda guy the coating left my cast iron grate pretty early on.
            now i just fire it up, let it burn for a bit, give it a few firm passes with my grill brush then swab it with a clump of paper towels dipped in peanut oil and i'm good to go.

            1. re: ScubaSteve
              CindyJ RE: ScubaSteve Aug 13, 2010 02:35 PM

              Was it the heat that did it in? That almost seems counter-intuitive.

              1. re: CindyJ
                ScubaSteve RE: CindyJ Aug 14, 2010 05:03 AM

                yup. but that just comes with the territory.

                1. re: ScubaSteve
                  CindyJ RE: ScubaSteve Aug 17, 2010 03:15 PM

                  So you mean the cast iron grate I paid $86 for that just got delivered yesterday is likely going to lose its seasoned coating? Sheeeeesh! BTW - is it going to get rusty when the coating is gone?

                  1. re: CindyJ
                    ScubaSteve RE: CindyJ Aug 17, 2010 05:11 PM

                    if you treat it as i have treated mine (red hot coals and lots of them) then probably.
                    i get some rusting, but that's no biggie for me as it comes right off after a few passes with the grill brush.
                    you could always give it a shot of veggie oil spray as part of you're post-grilling clean-up.

                    1. re: ScubaSteve
                      thew RE: ScubaSteve Aug 18, 2010 07:10 AM

                      crisco veg shortening works wonders to season a grate

                2. re: CindyJ
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                  deeznuts RE: CindyJ Aug 19, 2010 12:08 AM

                  high heat will aid in seasoning. Super high heat will burn it right off. Lump and other charcoal gets really hot. really really hot.

                  As said above, oil it down after every use, it should prevent a lot of rusting. For cast iron used inside the house, I wouldn't say that. But outside, it's fine. The bottom of the grates will get rusted, unless you life them up and oil it. But who cares. Your food never touches that.

                  If you don't use high heat you can develop a beautiful seasoning on naked cast iron grates. My buddies mom has an old ass weber gas grill with bare cast iron. Due to its age it never gets super hot, which is a good thing. The seasoning on it is so deep and black, she can grill a fish and not one speck of skin ever sticks to the grate. I'm quite jealous.

                  1. re: deeznuts
                    CindyJ RE: deeznuts Aug 19, 2010 08:41 AM

                    Should the grates be oiled while they're still hot, or after they've cooled down?

                    1. re: CindyJ
                      thew RE: CindyJ Aug 19, 2010 09:42 AM

                      while hot

          2. jnk RE: CindyJ Jul 21, 2010 10:09 AM

            I can't speak to the charcoal question but I can tell you that I recently smoke a 12 lb brisket in the center of the 22.5 inch Weber so you might want to reconsider the 26.75 if you're cooking for 2. Best of luck.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jnk
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              Shaw Oliver RE: jnk Jul 21, 2010 10:57 AM

              It really is a big grill. If I was cooking for a family of 4+ big eaters I'd buy the 26.75 but the 22.5 is really quite sufficient.

              As for the lid rest, etc. You can purchase those as add ons for the 22.5. In fact, if you buy the 22.5 Performer (good investment, I think) there is a lid rest built into the cart system. The 22.5 Performer also has a thermometer in the lid. The ash receptacle isn't a problem on my 22.5. I empty it every 7 or 8 times I grill - maybe more, maybe less. If you use hardwood charcoal, you don't have to worry about significant ash build up. Briquettes create appalling amount of dense, heavy ash because of what is in them. You can also buy a rotisserie addition for the 22.5. To my knowledge you can't buy that for the 26.75.

              Point is, the 22.5 is really the standard Weber charcoal grill. Replacement parts are going to be much easier to find and more toys are available for the 22.5.

              I'm not trying to sway you too much (I don't have any personal interest of course) but just to let you know what is out there.

              1. re: Shaw Oliver
                s
                Shaw Oliver RE: Shaw Oliver Jul 21, 2010 11:16 AM

                Oh - you're not getting rid of your gas grill are you? Unless it's completely worn out and rusted through, I'd say have both. I do. I inherited a nice gas grill from my Dad when he got a new one (long story).

              2. re: jnk
                CindyJ RE: jnk Jul 21, 2010 12:55 PM

                I looked at the 22.5" a little while ago, and the size seems quite adequate. Now I'm contemplating the matter of the lid holder. Maybe the Performer is the way for me to go. If I got the 22.5" Gold, I'd have to buy a separate side table to use with it (I really don't like the Weber accessory table) as well as the lid holder accessory. Also, as Shaw Oliver says, there are more "toys" available for the 22.5. I think I've made a decision. Thanks!

              3. d
                deeznuts RE: CindyJ Jul 21, 2010 12:41 PM

                If only cooking for two, and cooking indirect it will take more coals to get to the same temp in a bigger grill. That's just plain physics (or science or whatever :P)

                If cooking direct, it won't matter much.

                What city are you in? My solution. Buy two 22's. Off craigslist. I collect old kettles in good condition in colors you can't get today. $30-40 is what I pay.

                1. CindyJ RE: CindyJ Jul 23, 2010 02:14 PM

                  So now that I've resolved the "which grill to buy" dilemma, is there a charcoal-grilling guru who's written a must-have cookbook on the subject? (Or maybe this is a topic for another post?)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ
                    d
                    deeznuts RE: CindyJ Jul 24, 2010 12:38 AM

                    the weber cookbook series are great by Jaime Purviance (check the spelling). I just picked up Adam Perry Lang's Serious BBQ and his recipes look good, if more advance/complicated than most bbq/grilling recipes. I've tried one and it's fantastic, but again, more complicated than most.

                    Coming back to charcoal maybe pick up Weber's way to grill. Gives you some techniques on charcoal grilling. Just learn how to grill indirect, build 2-3 zone fires etc.

                    http://www.amazon.com/Webers-Way-Gril...

                    1. re: CindyJ
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                      ricepad RE: CindyJ Jul 24, 2010 08:20 AM

                      Smoke and Spice, by Jamison and Jamison.

                      1. re: CindyJ
                        Channa RE: CindyJ Jul 25, 2010 09:43 AM

                        We recently got our first grill (charcoal), and the most helpful thing has been watching grilling shows on TV. Primal Grill with Steve Raichlen is brilliant. He grills everything from whole animals to tofu, and really stresses details. Some of his food has been cooked directly on the coals (eggplant, corn, steaks), and it looks amazing. Bobby Flay has some good shows, too. So as they say, check your local listings.

                        1. re: Channa
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                          Shaw Oliver RE: Channa Jul 26, 2010 10:10 AM

                          I agree, though I find Raichlen a better study. He is just about the ultimate geek though - not exactly the guy I would hire to do TV. Quite awkward.

                      2. s
                        sparkareno RE: CindyJ Jul 26, 2010 09:48 AM

                        I like Weber's Big Book of Grilling. I also like Hot Barbecue by Hugh Carpenter. I can't stand Steve Raichlen but I make Bobby Flay's recipes all the time.
                        Most important--you must get a Weber chimney starter--not a generic one. There is a big difference.

                        1. r
                          RealityMonster RE: CindyJ Jul 26, 2010 09:32 PM

                          I gotta say, I just got the 18.5" One-Touch Gold, and it's perfectly fine for two people. I did 4 large chicken legs and 4 veggie skewers tonight, and that was an awful lot of food for two of us. A smaller grill is going to heat faster and use less charcoal. Unless you really spend a lot of time entertaining other families, just buy the smallest you can get away with.

                          The 18.5" fits great on my balcony, which is what primarily influenced my decision. I don't regret it at all.

                          1. thew RE: CindyJ Aug 7, 2010 01:50 PM

                            look into the big steel keg. its a kamado style like the egg, but metal, and thus lighter and cheaper.

                            i'm in love w/ mine. i've probably grilled and bbq'd more this year, than all my previous life combined

                            1. b
                              bagofwater RE: CindyJ Sep 27, 2010 07:28 PM

                              One thing you can do for smaller cooks -- get yourself some fire bricks at your local masonry supply store (or spend a little more on the Ace Hardware ones), and use them to concentrate the coals into a smaller cooking area. You can probably get by with a half-chimney or less doing it that way.

                              However, you may not need anything bigger than the 22.5. I've done as many as 3 racks of ribs when I set the grill up for indirect cooking. That's quite a bit of meat.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: bagofwater
                                CindyJ RE: bagofwater Sep 28, 2010 06:32 AM

                                Do you do those using a rack that holds them vertically? I can't imagine having enough indirect heat space on a 22.5 otherwise.

                                1. re: CindyJ
                                  m
                                  mikie RE: CindyJ Sep 28, 2010 06:36 AM

                                  I always do ribs in a rack, lean bone side towards heat for most of the cook and lean the other way for the last hour or so. Slow cooking ribs is 4-6 hours depending on how hot you get them.

                                  1. re: CindyJ
                                    b
                                    bagofwater RE: CindyJ Sep 28, 2010 08:12 AM

                                    I've used a rack in the past. You can encounter difficulties in getting good even caramelization on your ribs, though. I was also able to organize 3 racks (racks, not slabs) of trimmed spares on my cooking space. Here's a picture of my setup.

                                    I've also seen setups on the 22" where the coals were pushed to underneath 1/4 of the grill area, in a pie slice shape. This is particularly effective when using the cast iron grates with the removable quartiles.

                                     
                                    1. re: bagofwater
                                      CindyJ RE: bagofwater Sep 28, 2010 09:18 AM

                                      So 3/4 of the grill space is used for indirect heat? Is there enough heat from the coals in the remaining 1/4? And, please tell me again how that firebrick works.

                                      1. re: CindyJ
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                                        bagofwater RE: CindyJ Sep 28, 2010 09:32 AM

                                        In my setup, it's more like 2/3 of the grill. The 1/4 setup seems to provide plenty of heat, from what I've read. I know when I fill my 2/3 setup up with coals, I'm more worried about there being TOO MUCH heat rather than not enough.

                                        The fire brick setup is simple. Just set them up on their sides, across the grill, allowing them to overlap by an inch or two. This gives you a bin which you can fill with fuel. Add 6-8 lit coals to the top of your unlit fuel, and you'll have several hours of indirect cooking time. The fire bricks help to regulate the heat in the grill in addition to keeping your coals to the side.

                                        1. re: bagofwater
                                          CindyJ RE: bagofwater Sep 28, 2010 02:50 PM

                                          Sorry, I'm just not understanding. In your photo above, you have a firebrick on TOP of the cooking grate, yet now it sounds like you're saying to put them below to create a "divider." I thought, based on your photo, that you were placing firebricks on the cooking surface to provide more heat to the ribs. My grill came with two semi-circular pans which can be used to hold the coals while they're heating and then moved to create hot/warm cooking zones. And, whereas I'm likely to add UNlit coals to my lit fuel to keep the fire going, I'm really confused as to when I'd add LIT coals on top of unlit ones. Sorry if I'm being dense; I'm really trying to understand.

                                          1. re: CindyJ
                                            b
                                            bagofwater RE: CindyJ Sep 28, 2010 03:53 PM

                                            You're not being dense. I'm probably just doing a poor job of explaining.

                                            FYI... I was just using the brick on top as a heat sink. It can be used to prevent radiant heat from reaching your meat (it's one of many methods to use -- more than one way to skin a cat).

                                            Here is a link to a forum with a better visual example of how to set up your kettle: http://tvwbb.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/9... (go down to about the 7th message).

                                            Also, the method of placing unlit on lit is called the Minion method (on BBQ forums, you'll see it abbreviated MM). Probably your best bet is to Google "minion method kettle." You'll find a wealth of information, with helpful pics as well.

                                            Good luck, and if you have any other questions, just post another question and I'll do my best to answer.

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